Chevron and BP Amoco to test experimental "smart pumps" in Atlanta

Jul 06, 2000 02:00 AM

In theory, it's a pretty cool idea: While filling up at a gas station, customers receive pitches and discount coupons from local retailers through an Internet-wired pump.Chevron and BP Amoco clearly see potential in the concept, with testing of experimental "smart pumps" slated to begin later this month in Atlanta.
But executives at San Francisco's Chevron are the first to admit that they don't really know how customers will respond to the program or how it might be marketed at the company's 8,000 service stations in the United States. "We've got more questions than answers at this point," said Mike Wirth, the company's general manager of retail marketing. "Do people view the time they spend at the pump as quiet time, as time when they are beyond the reach of advertisers?" he asked. "I just don't know." What he and other members of the oil industry do know, however, is that they control a captive audience in the two minutes or so it takes to fill the average gas tank.

Past efforts to reach out and touch this audience have included airing commercials over nearby TV screens or on speakers. But the wired pumps represent the most intimate -- or intrusive -- effort yet to connect with service-station customers. The ads will begin as soon as the gas starts flowing, interspersed with information like traffic updates and weather reports. As soon as one's tank is full, the video stream shuts off. "This is a short period of time where you can have the customer's full attention," Mr. Wirth said. "This represents a big opportunity for someone to get their message across." If successful in Atlanta, the pumps could be introduced in the San Francisco Bay area and other locations by next summer.
The system was developed by Ten Square, a creator of specialised networks in which both Chevron and BP Amoco hold equity stakes. All content on the wired pumps would originate at Ten Square, based in San Jose, California, and be transmitted over the Internet to individual service stations. "Buying gas has not always been the best experience for people," said Alex Fraikor, Ten Square's brand strategist. "If you can add some value, that can be a real benefit." The trick, he emphasised, is to not just bombard customers with TV commercials. Rather, the wired pumps will allow local retailers to offer discounts for goods and services.

If a customer is interested, the pump will print out a coupon just as it prints out credit-card receipts. "The furthest thing from our mind is simply streaming ads," Mr. Fraikor said. It's not yet known how privately held Ten Square would market its service to retailers in thousands of neighbourhoods across the country -- or how much it would charge for its pump promotions.
Another big question is who would pay to retrofit existing pumps with interactive screens -- an expense of about $ 3,000 (US) per pump. Chevron and BP will bear much of this cost for the Atlanta trial but have not yet expressed a willingness to do so on a national basis in the United States.
At this point, the interactivity of the program will be limited by and large to customers tapping "yes" or "no" on a touch screen when offered coupons. But Scott Slinker, Ten Square's president and CEO, said he expects customers to eventually be able to purchase movie tickets or McDonald's Happy Meals while they wait.
He added that a number of retailers and e-commerce ventures already have booked space on the Atlanta pumps. "We're sold out," he said. "We have no more capacity." There are no plans for service-station patrons to be able to receive stock quotes, download e-mail or otherwise surf the Web. "I don't think a lot of people are going to check their e-mail at the pump anyway," Chevron's Mr. Wirth said. "And, all things considered, I don't think we want them hanging around after they've filled their tanks."

Source: San Francisco Chronicle via Newspage
Alexander's Commentary

Change of face - change of phase

In the period of July 20 till August 3, 2015, Alexander will be out of the office and the site will not or only irreg

read more ...
« September 2021 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30

Register to announce Your Event

View All Events